Protecting your pulse is the key to longevity

Regular physical activity in particular is one of the best defences against vascular diseases in the long term

By Dr Saher Arour

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Published: Tue 27 Feb 2024, 11:04 PM

Is there anyone among us who does not hope to live a long and healthy life? Unfortunately, “hope” can only get us so far. In order to take real, tangible steps towards achieving longevity, we need knowledge.

Thus, it is crucial to educate ourselves about a fundamental aspect of the human body, our circulatory system. We need to be aware of the facts and functionality of our body’s vascular network, not just as a matter of academic interest, but to understand the very essence of life.

How does the circulatory system work?

The human circulatory system is a complex and awe-inspiring network that tirelessly works to nourish our bodies and eliminate waste. With the heart at its centre, this intricate network of arteries, capillaries, and veins ensures every cell receives the vital elements it needs.

The heart beats 60 to 100 times a minute on average. These beats are regulated by a system of electrical signals and are responsive to the body's demands. When we are active, the heart beats faster; when at rest, it slows down. Genetic factors, not-so-healthy diets, and a sedentary lifestyle can throw it off balance, adversely affecting our well-being.

Understanding this vulnerability isn't a reason to panic; it's a reminder to step up our game. Knowledge becomes our shield, and adopting healthy habits is our secret weapon in maintaining circulatory well-being. Regular check-ups, recognising signs of trouble, understanding risks, and incorporating preventive measures into our daily routine ensure our circulatory system stays robust, allowing us to thrive in the long run.

Circulatory system diseases: Silent threats

The circulatory system is vulnerable to various disorders, some of which are alarmingly prevalent. Congestive heart failure, an ailment where the heart struggles to pump blood adequately, and aneurysms, weakened spots in blood vessels, are formidable adversaries. Varicose veins, a visible manifestation of venous insufficiency, and blood clots, potentially life-threatening, underscore the importance of vigilant circulatory health.

The most common of these is hypertension, which is a lifestyle disorder that requires a lifetime of attention. It affects nearly a billion people around the world, making it one of the largest health issues facing the human species. Have you ever wondered how hypertension occurs in our circulatory system?

Hypertension is the silent, consistent force of blood against artery walls, causing long-term damage without presenting any obvious symptoms. This condition often leads to severe consequences down the line such as heart attack and stroke. It's aptly termed the "silent killer" by the healthcare sector. According to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) study, the number of people affected by this disorder is expected to increase to 1.57 billion by 2025.

Prevention: The first line of defence

While understanding these diseases is the first step towards prevention and early intervention, it means nothing if we do not take the necessary steps to mount a strong defence against them. Preventing circulatory diseases requires a holistic approach addressing genetic factors, diet, and lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle, high-fat diets, and tobacco consumption are common culprits contributing to vascular diseases.

It is therefore important to develop healthy habits such as regular exercise, quitting smoking, and maintaining a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids to ensure strong vascular health. It is also important to manage stress, which can be accomplished through simple interventions such as meditation or yoga.

Dr Saher Arour
Dr Saher Arour

Consuming antioxidant-rich teas is also recommended as it supports vascular health by mitigating oxidative stress, promoting blood vessel function, reducing inflammation, and potentially lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, elevating legs and wearing compression socks aid blood flow, especially for those at risk.

Exercise: The circulatory system’s greatest fighter

Regular physical activity in particular is one of the best defences against vascular diseases in the long term. It strengthens the heart, dilates arteries, and lowers blood pressure thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and enhancing lung capacity.

The more we exercise, the more efficiently our heart pumps, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and keeping veins and arteries resilient. Athletes, with their lower resting heart rates, exemplify the efficiency gained through exercise.

It is also important to keep in mind that it is never too late to develop better habits. Research indicates that exercise, while unable to reverse vein damage, significantly reduces the rate of deterioration and complications in vein-related issues.

Timely Treatment: Preserving life and limb

Early detection of vascular diseases, especially in high-risk individuals, is paramount. Regular screening in those over 60 with multiple chronic conditions can unveil asymptomatic issues, allowing for timely intervention.

It is important to understand the power we hold to nurture the lifeline, that is the human circulatory system. By understanding its intricacies, we can take proactive steps to maintain its health, fortifying it to safeguard our well-being.

The author is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon, Medcare Hospitals and Medical Centres, Dubai

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